Back to basics & making friends with an Orangutan
Trip Start Sep 28, 2009
92Trip End Apr 22, 2011
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Where I stayed
Australia Place was the base camp for the Ozzies and Kiwi's in 1945 and is now Kota Kinabalu’s main backpacker area. It was a shock to the system after a luxury week at my cousin house in Singapore and three months in comfort in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, to suddenly have a pokey little room, no A/C and share bathroom. Kota Kinabalu the capital of Malaysian Borneo is a friendly town and the quality of the budget accommodation shouldn’t be held against it..... although we did get a lot more for our money in Vietnam.
We spent the first couple of days exploring the town and enjoying the excellent Malaysian food, (Mmmm clay pot chicken) and roaming round the markets. Monday we booked ourselves on a trip to Mount Kinabalu, just the two of us with a guide. The early start took us on a two hour drive through the mountain to Mount Kinabalu base camp where we got a guided tour of the museum and history of the mountain. Every year there is a race to the top of the mountain last year the winner did it in 2 hours 40 min, to put that in perspective, it would take a normal person 5 hours to trek to the first shelter on the first day stay overnight and then 2 hour hike the second. It is then a 4 hour hike down that afternoon. These guys run up and down it in under 3 hours....now that’s fit! We thankfully are no longer equipped for any kind of hiking, so going up mountain wasn’t on our agenda. A gentle stroll with our guide was good as it gets for us, we wandered around while he pointed out different species of orchids, ferns and general plant life that grow in Borneo. It was really interesting and great to have someone enlightening us, rather than us just drifting around going 'ooh that’s nice’ but not really knowing what we were looking at.
Next was lunch on the mountain in a fantastic little restaurant that had great views of the Crocker Range, well they would have been great views if the clouds didn’t cover most of them up. The food as always in Malaysia was excellent and we left there stuffed to the brim. Back in the car and an hour drive to the other side of the mountains to Poring Hot Springs to dabble our feet and walk the high canopy over the forest. The problem with canopy walks are, you always have to walk UP for miles before you get on it. The view however from the top was breath taking and worth all the puffing and panting it took to get us up there. A quick soak in the very hot and stinky water before moving on to the highlight of the day..... meeting Jacqui.
We followed Vincent into a restricted area which looked a bit like a zoo enclosure and at first we thought we were just meeting caged animal which would have been a bit sad. It wasn’t until we saw that the door wasn’t closed behind us or that there was no roof or netting keeping her in that we realised that Jacqui the 3ft 7 year old orang-utan was free to wander out into the jungle at any time.... and she often did. Her story is she was one of a few orang-utan that were born near the enclosure but Jacqui fell out a tree when she was a baby and cut her head badly and ended up being hand reared. She and one of her other sibling are the only ones that come back to the enclosure to be with humans.... the rest run wild. She was very sweet and didn’t mind us being there at all. Vincent gave her a pint of milk which she drunk slowly, like it was a cup of tea. Occasionally putting it down, carefully so it didn’t spill, and then going back to it. She was truly remarkable, it was such a rush to be that close to nature and be able to touch her hand and face. Gary and I were both a little cautious, after all if she turned nasty or just got bored (with me taking 200 pictures of her) then she could have caused us some serious damage. When she did get bored she just got up and walked off, found some bananas and had some lunch. It was a very cool experience.
Borneo is all about three things, the mountain, the trekking and the diving. I have already crossed off the trekking side of things, including climbing up mountains, firstly we don’t have any kit to do it in and secondly we are no way fit enough to get involved. The diving however is our thing and plans were made to get over to the Sipadan and have a few dives. However it seems the cost of 3 dives was more than 3x the cost of anywhere else we have dived and more than our budget would allow. So having read all the books and Googled every website, we have decided to leave Borneo early and head for Indonesia our next destination. An internal flight from Kota Kinabalu to Kuching with Air Asia and then to Lombok on our scheduled flights the next day.
There is another reason we are bringing Indonesia forward and that is the World Cup, being as we are a bit football mad and the fact that England are actually going to win it this year....(Hmmmmm) we are going to settle into a nice hotel with TV and pool and enjoy some of the games. We may have to become nocturnal as we are seven hours ahead of the UK so most of the games will be played in the middle of night. Still with a pool to laze about in all day that should be a problem.